Keynote Address: Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Conference

Keynote Address: Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Conference

Stranger in a Strange Land Logo

I’m very honored to be presenting the keynote address at this Spring’s Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges Conference, on April 10 at Hendrix College.

My keynote topic is Stranger in a Strange Land: An Entrepreneur’s Sojourn in the Academy, and will be a recounting of “lessons learned” during my personal and professional journey – from entrepreneurship to the academy, and back again.

Information on registration for the conference may be found here.

Save the Date – Inaugural Little Rock Geek Breakfast

Save the Date – Inaugural Little Rock Geek Breakfast

LR GB Logo Theme

If you’ve enjoyed attending the Conway edition of Geek Breakfast for the past three years, but dreaded driving from Little Rock to Conway, well, the wait is over – you’re getting your very own Geek Breakfast!

The inaugural Little Rock Geek Breakfast is happening Thursday, April 9, at 7 am at Mugs Cafe in North Little Rock!

For those unfamiliar with Geek Breakfasts, they are monthly gatherings where attendees congregate over bacon, eggs and plenty of coffee to discuss topics like social media, digital marketing, design, programming, and ways to better their communities.

And, if you want to block out the second Thursday of each month, that’s when we plan on holding the Little Rock Geek Breakfast going forward!

You can follow the happenings of the Little Rock Geek Breakfast on Twitter, by following @LittleRockGeek.

Please tell all the Little Rock creatives, developers, designers, and “tech curious” you know – and we’ll see you on the 9th!

The Arkansas Entrepreneurial Startup Desert

The Arkansas Entrepreneurial Startup Desert

desert-and-dunes-widescreen-free-hd-new-year-1567250

I really shouldn’t call Arkansas an entrepreneurial desert – though it did get you to read this.

Arkansas is, after all, the home of Walmart, arguably the world’s most successful family business in the history of mankind. And, it is home to 18 publicly traded companies, in a state with only two million souls.

Arkansas is also a state with a long and storied entrepreneurial history, that seems to have forgotten what it is that entrepreneurs actually need to succeed. Namely: what do neophyte entrepreneurs actually need to know in order to run a going concern?

What we do have is a burgeoning and growing ecosystem, giving a great deal of lip service to supporting entrepreneurs: new technology centers, innovation hubs, and startup funds are announced weekly. For every new startup pitch competition created, a dozen other pitch competitions already exist. Enough, already.

We have created a wobbly ecosystem designed to launch a thousand Powerpoint decks, and game gone-in-sixty-second contests for bragging rights and cash; a startup food chain, with lots of empty calories, but with little to no nutritional value.

And as a result – we are failing to launch healthy and sustainable new companies.

How do we fix this?

Well, we don’t need another startup fund. And we sure as hell don’t need another pitch competition.

We need businesses, and business people, who know how to keep enterprises between the ditches, making profits, paying salaries, giving back to their communities, and ultimately, fulfilling dreams.

People willing to sweat, and teach, the details of what businesses actually do.

Details like: Should my business be a C Corporation, an S Corporation, or an LLC? Should I incorporate as a native corporation, or as a foreign corporation? Should I operate on an accrual basis, or a cash basis? Will we be subject to state sales taxes? Are we charging (at all / enough) for our services in order to cover our run rate? What are the statutory reporting requirements for my type of business?

Details as seemingly obvious as: How do I close a sale?

These details aren’t simply questions to be answered after you “growth hack” an audience, or announce your break-out app at South By. They are foundational issues vital to the success of any – and everyBusiness with a capital B. The Arkansas Venture Center does a great job of dealing with such issues, through their Pre-Flight course, and through their network of mentors and business advisors.

If you find yourself in a “startup” group, and you’re the only one in the group who has ever created a business charter or filed a 941 form, congratulations – you’re the de facto subject matter expert.

And it’s well past time that those of us who have this knowledge continue to allow the narrative of the emerging Arkansas startup ecosystem to be controlled by entities interested solely in selling shovels to the miners, rather than teaching the basics of actually digging for gold.

There are solid business mentors around. And, there are plenty of people – accountants, lawyers, educators, and, dare I say it, “lifestyle” business owners – that actually know how to take in more money than you spend.

Seek them out. Use them. Invite them into the startup conversation.

For, if you want to successfully cross the entrepreneurial desert, you’ll need guides who have been there before, crossed it, and lived to tell the tale.

Save the Date – Conway Geek Breakfast

Save the Date – Conway Geek Breakfast

GB Pancake Promo

Conway Geek Breakfast is Thursday, March 26, starting at 7 am at Bob’s Grill in Conway, AR. We’ll see you there!

Parenthetically, Conway Geek Breakfast turned THREE YEARS OLD in February! Thanks to the creatives, developers, and all around interesting people who have (and continue to) supported the local Central Arkansas tech community!

So – You Want to Hold an Event…

So – You Want to Hold an Event…

We just completed an amazing event at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub – the Raspberry Pi Bake Off. Though I’m ecstatic over how successful everything turned out, I’m also now wading through the debris of everything left undone on my other projects, in the wake of this past weekend.

Plus, there’s this whole “job” situation I’m working on. So, there’s that.

This was our third year for the Bake Off. While I would like to say that every year gets easier, that wouldn’t be entirely true. Every year is different is probably the most accurate description of the process.

event

That said – how does one go about putting together such a large event?

There’s really no silver bullet answer – unless lots of hard work and dedicated people working their tails off is that. But, in truest listicle fashion, I’ll present my “must haves” to pull off a successful event, and live to tell the tale.

  • Have a Purpose - this sounds self-evident, but you’d be surprised at the number of folks who want to put together an event without first having a unifying purpose, or even desired outcome. If you can’t articulate what your event is, or what you hope to accomplish in 1-3 sentences, you still have work to do.
  • Start Early - you can never start work early enough on your event. There a few ways I use to gauge when to begin work on an event: look at how much time past events took, walk back the calendar and ticking off all the things that have to happen in that allotted time, or simply say “omagosh – the event is only a month away! I haven’t done squat!” The earlier you start, the more time you have to make mistakes, hector sponsors and vendors, and rally volunteers to the cause.
  • Details, Details - The devil is always in the details, as the saying goes. Large scale events are a never ending stream of small questions about where tables should go, who will pick up the food, who will be responsible for cleanup, and who will make sure the donations come in. You should have at least one obsessively detail oriented person on your planning committee who will keep everyone on task and on script. Not the most popular job – or even person, by the end of things – but key to a successful event execution.
  • It’s All About People – Without a group of reliable, committed people helping you pull off the event, it’s never gonna happen. Never. Gonna. Happen. Part of the reason you start your event planning early is to make sure you get the dedicated help you’re going to need. Find a great recruiter / people person, and put them in charge of your volunteers. Make sure they remain engaged in the planning process all along the way, and remember to keep connected as the event draws close. Which leads naturally to…
  • Stay On It – You have to stay atop all the myriad activities leading up to your event – media, promotion, organization, vendors, suppliers, sponsors – every hour of every day leading up to the big day. If you assume that things will just happen? They won’t. Things happen because someone is there making sure they happen. That someone is you.
  • Show Up - And finally, the most important part – show up. Execute everything you’ve spent weeks and months planning. And, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. This is why you’re doing all this hard work.
  • Be Grateful - be overly generous in your thanks and praise for your sponsors, volunteers, and committee members, because without them, your event would have never happened. You can never really over thank or over acknowledge. Not doing this will be remembered, for a long time.
  • Post Mortem - Once the event is over, you need to put aside time to go over what went well with the event, what didn’t go so well, and what you’d do differently if you had to do it all over again. This doesn’t need to be done right away, but should be done soon after, so that memories (and possibly some hurt feelings) are fresh enough to provide good, accurate, feedback.

That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell. If there is a recurring theme, it is to remain persistently vigilant in overseeing the details leading up to your event.

Good luck with your event, and please feel free to give your feedback in the comments.

The 2015 Raspberry Pi Bake-Off

The 2015 Raspberry Pi Bake-Off

_80718347_01749b0c-fec5-4504-a322-48243a5450e2

The Third Annual Raspberry Pi Bake-Off will be held Saturday, March 14 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.

The annual event (held each Pi Day, March 14th) is designed to showcase amazing projects created using the the affordable and versatile Raspberry Pi, a small $35 credit card-size teaching computer designed for students and hobbyists.

Students, makers, and creatives are invited to bring their Raspberry Pi creations to compete for prizes, prestige, and – most importantly – bragging rights! In addition to the project competition, workshops and labs will be held for people just getting started with the Raspberry Pi, and for those interested in learning how to get the most out of their Raspberry Pi creations.

The event is free and open to the public.

“When Sis or Junior trash the family computer, it’s a big deal”, said David J. Hinson, who along with Tony Bates of Arkansas Geek Central (http://arkansasgeekcentral.com/), has organized the first two Bake-Offs. “The designers of the Raspberry Pi wanted to create an inexpensive teaching computer, meant to be handled and tinkered with… if you break it, the consequences are minimal. They succeeded wildly – millions of Raspberry Pi units have been sold worldwide since their release three years ago. When Tony and I saw the impact of the Pi, we felt compelled to help spread the word about the potential for these $35 computers.” To learn more about the Raspberry Pi, please visit http://www.raspberrypi.org.

Raspi_Colour_R (1)

For questions and additional information regarding the Raspberry Pi Bake-Off, please contact David J. Hinson at davidjhinson@gmail.com, call the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub at 501-907-6570, or visit the website at http://pi.arkgeeks.com/bakeoff.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is located at 201 East Broadway, North Little Rock, AR 72114. Please visit http://www.arhub.org for information on the Hub, and its upcoming events and programs.

Raspberry-Pi-Bake-Off-Poster_2015

Pigeonholing

Pigeonholing

Ducking Pigeonholing

This was originally posted in 2008, therefore many personal references mentioned here are dated; however, this topic has been on my mind a great deal recently, and so I am reposting on a cold wintry Arkansas morning. I do hope that you’ll find at least a few good take-aways from my thoughts of seven years ago (!!!). – Ed.

Pigeonholing is, according to Wikipedia, a term used to describe processes that attempt to classify disparate entities into a small number of categories (usually, mutually exclusive ones).

It is almost always pejorative in the sense that the pigeonhole-ee – the person or object being pigeonholed – is relegated to a tightly restricted role or position. Most people would say that they hate being pigeonholed, because the act of pigeonholing by definition is to limit for ease of classification – at the expense of getting the entire picture.

The most recognizable form of pigeonholing is typecasting in the movies. Some actors have roles that are so tightly identified with them that they can never find acting work doing anything else; William Shatner as James T. Kirk, Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins, and Bela Lugosi as Dracula (note to readers: this phenomena is definitely not limited to vampire roles – Ed).

But pigeonholing is a danger that “high performers” in business are prone to as well. Dan Bricklin will forever be known as the Visicalc Guy, Mitch Kapor will always be the Lotus 1-2-3 guy, Ed Esber will always be known as the Ashton-Tate guy who was at the helm during the Dbase IV tanking. Even though all of these guys have been successful afterwards, they are cast into a certain world view because of a need to simplify the world by putting people into neat little compartments.

Some business people have definitely broken the pigeonholing cycle.

Had Steve Jobs fallen off the map following the failure of the NeXT , he more or less would have been pegged as simply being lucky with his first stint at Apple Computer . Instead, he has gone on to be one of the most successful second acts in personal computing history.

I would suggest that Marc Andreesen is looking for his pigeonhole-escaping second act, though he has had quite a few successes following his days at Netscape. (2015 Ed – and has found it as a leading VC).

But even for the “little guy” pigeonholing is a constant danger to be guarded against.

For example, you do an outstanding job on a project, and all of a sudden you’re the SME (subject matter expert) on that particular project – forever. Unless it’s being project manager on a deep space probe or being Chairman of the Fed, or being Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, this is probably not what you had in mind.

Stick around long enough, and one gathers quite a few skills and life experiences that don’t fit on a one page resume or condense down to a single 140 character tweet.

I would hate to think that my professional life can be condensed down to a five minute elevator pitch, or even shorter escalator pitch. Yet I recognize the need to help others get to know what I can do for them in as short a period of time as possible. The key question is – how to summarize the complexity and richness that you have to offer in the ADD business world that we exist in?

From my perspective, you have to have several answers at the ready, tailored to the audience at hand.

“I’m a developer.” “I’m a Marketer.” “I’m a Salesman.”

But beyond that, you have to figure out how to pull out those layers of complexity in your career that make up who you are today. It’s a tough nut to crack.

From my personal history, I have done the following:

  • Been the IT director at a startup transaction processing company in Transportation
  • Written multitasking kernels for point-of-sales systems
  • Written NetBUI networking stacks
  • Written SCSI controllers
  • Taught Advanced Microcomputer Concepts at the University Level
  • Been the Director of a Business Unit for a Software Company
  • Written Engineering Software for the Largest Private Banking WAN in North America
  • Written software responsible for engineering 100,000 VoIP phones
  • Have been the President of a Software Consultancy for the past dozen years (circa 2008)
  • 2015 Ed – Served as the CIO of a leading Liberal Arts College

Among all of these things, most people know me professionally for only a handful of these – usually, only one or two, tops. Yet they constitute the fabric of who I am as a professional.

My daily challenge developing business for my corporate brand, and increasingly my personal brand, is simplifying my pitch while losing as little detail as possible in the experiences that have made me what I am.

I’m still a work in progress.

Just realize that if you limit me to only five minutes to describe myself, the really good stuff is probably outside the time limit allowed.